Just before dawn on Christmas morning in my hometown and I couldn’t sleep. I climbed out of bed, made my way to the kitchen and plugged in the percolator. When I finally sat down with my Christmas mug of coffee what came to mind was “what a year!” and “what a season.”

And then: when will it be time to go home? What IS home, anyway? For me there’s no easy answer.

I’ve no idea what it would be like to have the mythical, traditional family life: everyone gets along and holidays are happy occasions. Maybe the whole thing is a myth, a fantasy, a bill of goods we were sold that could never deliver.

Oddly, having escaped the clutches of dysfunction and even thrived, I’m closer to having a sense of family than I ever was. It’s not exactly linear and the players are unexpected, with very few related by blood, but it’s family, nonetheless.

Chosen family.  I first heard that term back in the 1980s when I worked with a lot of gay people. They showed me that genetics do not make a family. And so many adoptees say the same. Family is so much more. Family is the people who wish you well and have your back. Family is people who accept your foibles and even your failings. Family is people who can laugh with you and laugh at themselves with you, but never at you.

We’ve been sheltering in place in our hometown of Rochester, NY, since our Bay area, Calif. home city of San Jose has been overrun by Covid.  It’s the longest time I’ve been here since I moved away in 1972. It’s my hometown, but I never really considered it “home.”

California is always Home. Capital “H.”

And yet, as bestie reminds me, I’ve lamented the dispersion and break-up of my California tribe.

Being in Rochester, I’ve had plenty of time to consider my attachment to my California. My West coast circle isn’t the same as it was 30 years ago but I am still bonded to the Bay area by a few friends who are family, but mostly by the invisible threads of history.

Every mile of the place has a memory. My adult life played out at Big Sur, in Monterey County, in San Francisco, in Silicon Valley. Yosemite is a magical place and Big Sur is my creative and spiritual haven.

In my mind’s eye I see the corner house in Pacific Grove where a friend now long gone and I painted ceramics every weekend. I never fail to smile when I pass Malpaso Road off Highway 1, at the afternoon someone I loved drove me down because of their own family memories. I can’t navigate Highway 280 North without smiling about the night in the mid 80s we’d all had too much to drink in San Francisco and had to pee on the way home, so we actually stopped on the freeway median to pee in the middle of the night. Cars whizzed by as we took care of business.

Who does that? The young. Only the young.

It’s been six months since I got here and the siren call of California has grown louder and more insistent. I’m going home.

We’ll get vaccinated against Covid in California and, I hope, resume normal life one day soon.  While I adore my pretty little Rochester house near Lake Ontario, I am anxious to breathe in sea air and take in the spectacular Pacific coast, see my friends safely distanced (for now) and even happy to see my dentist.

The little park in front of my friend Greg’s house is waiting for us to circle it a few times, safely masked and talk-talk-talking about all things. Our neighbors are also waiting to have safely distanced patio cocktails.

I’m ready.

And, come fall, I will be ready to return to our spectacular fall colors in our hometown. Hoping we can safely do that.

How about you? What’s home for you? What thoughts come up for you as the world begins to slowly reopen?

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